Endocannabinoids for Endometriosis?

Endometriosis, although not frequently discussed by news media, affects more than 200,000 women in the US every year! During endometriosis, endometrial tissue, which usually grows inside the uterus, manages to transplant itself outside the uterus and continue growing. This growth can cause fibers of cells to form, making organs stick together, which results in severe pain. However, perhaps worse, the cells continue to behave as a healthy uterine lining would; they continue to swell, break down, and release blood along with the natural menstrual cycle. This activity can result in cysts forming, which leads to more pain, infertility, and eventually death. Sadly, while we have medicines that alleviate symptoms and decrease frequency of menstruation, we have nothing that eradicates the growths directly. In most severe cases, therefore, doctors are forced to operate to remove areas where endometrial tissue has bonded outside the uterus. Surgery, however, is always risky. Removing such growths comes with “significant morbidity”. In past articles we’ve discussed how cannabinoids are being used to halt tumor growth in cell culture experiments and sometimes in actual rodent tumors. What essentially occurs is that cells with high growth profiles are encouraged to deactivate, leaving “healthy” cells alone. Although endometriosis does not involve cancerous growth, it does involve rapidly growing cells adhering outside of normal locations. As a result, researchers have postulated for some time that cannabinoids might also pose a treatment solution to endometriosis or at least be used to slow its development. One study from The American Journal of…

Opioid Withdrawal Treatment: Finding New Roads

Opioids/opiates have provided significant and sometimes life-saving relief to countless patients. They remain some of the strongest painkillers available and can be especially helpful in rendering comfort in otherwise extremely painful terminal illnesses. Opioids work by activating opioid receptors located in the brain, which are densely located in emotion-controlling areas that process pain. Unfortunately, prolonged or extreme use of opioids can lead to dependence, or the body adjusting by limiting natural opioid production and therefore resulting in the body physiologically needing increasing amounts of external opioids to function properly. However, aside from practical issues, high doses of opioids can lead to respiratory failure, death, and other serious health consequences, which means that for all but terminally ill users, opioid withdrawal will eventually occur. Withdrawal is not only unpleasant physically and psychologically (depression, lack of appetite, diarrhea), but potentially life-threatening. In fact, withdrawal is so severe that it can sometimes prevent patients from ending opiate use, causing a downward spiral. As a result, modern doctors are cautious to prescribe opioids and usually seek to wean patients off opioids through slowly decreasing prescriptions. Perhaps more concerning though, aside from medical patients, roughly 4.3 million people in the US alone are currently non-medical users of narcotic pain relievers. Drugs like heroin, hydrocodone, oxycodone, etc. are all opiate-based drugs that are frequently abused for the recreational high. Meanwhile, even drugs intended to wean opiate use, such as buprenorphine, are commonly sold and traded. To date, only compounds that directly activate opioid receptors have been…

Vaping To Relieve Pain, Does It Really Work?

One of the most popular recurring topics on the Cornerstone blog is pain management, and for good reason; currently available pain treatment options may go a long way toward reducing pain, but most individuals with chronic pain still report unmet treatment needs. One relevant issue is that multiple sources contribute to pain, and therefore, a single “magic bullet” pain medication does not exist that is capable of treating all sources. As medical science advances, part of researchers’ collective job is elucidating what other pain treatments might be effective and worth adding to the rotation of commonly used painkillers. As readers know, researchers have identified both THC and CBD as potential pain treatments, with CBD’s anti-inflammatory effects making it an especially good candidate for pain stemming from inflammation (such as in arthritis). Cannabinoids such as CBD represent a great treatment option because abuse potential is relatively non-existent. Opiate-based medicines on the other hand, such as morphine, must be carefully controlled. Doctors are frequently put in the position of evaluating a patient’s pain and choosing whether to prescribe opiates or to withhold that medication to prevent abuse, addiction, and drug trading. That decision can be difficult, and the more non-abusable drugs in a doctor’s arsenal, the more likely pain will be treated effectively. Lately, as medical research delves deeper into the world of cannabinoids and the body’s own endocannabinoid system, the emerging consensus is that new cannabinoids could be created that are even more effective at reducing pain than cannabis itself. For…

Debunking Reefer Madness “Science”

Most of the Cornerstone blog articles we post are about the future and pending medical advances. However, today, we will instead take a quick look at the present, specifically at the national conversation around medical cannabis. As more states continue to legalize medical and recreational cannabis, the bulk of conversation centers on how to navigate this collective policy change to produce the greatest good and smallest harm for society as a whole. However, while 2016 has certainly been an outstanding year for medical cannabis and cannabinoid research, reefer madness is still alive and well, and opposition remains strong. For exhibit A, the report that is setting the internet abuzz, the University of Western Australia published a press release linking cannabis use to gene mutation. To quote the article: “‘Through our research we found that cancers and illnesses were likely caused by cell mutations resulting from cannabis properties having a chemical interaction with a person’s DNA,’ Associate Professor Stuart Reece said.” As if this isn’t scary enough, the article then suggests that these mutations are passed to offspring. Yikes. Following this line of thought, by consuming cannabis, individuals may inadvertently be giving their children cancer! Fortunately, cannabis science luminary Ethan Russo stepped in to clarify and debunk the report. In an interview for the East Bay Express, Ethan noted, “This report is based on a foundation of falsehoods. Cannabis is not mutagenic (productive of mutations in DNA)…Countless animal studies and human epidemiological studies support its relative safety in this regard.” Despite…

Nutmeg and …The Endocannabinoid System?

As readers know, we spend a lot of time researching and writing articles about the endocannabinoid system, the system of cannabinoids, cannabinoid receptors, and enzymes found in most mammals. For a medical cannabis dispensary, this might seem a bit counterintuitive: why not focus purely on cannabis? Why not focus the blog on emerging cannabis strains or strain history? Firstly, we take our position as a leading research dispensary seriously. From our intake process to our appointments to the blog, our entire process is designed to go above and beyond what a normal dispensary is equipped to offer. We’re not just concerned with marketing the latest, greatest strains; we’re concerned with your health and your understanding of health. We know that the trust we build with you as a provider is infinitely more valuable than any marketing gimmick. However, secondly, and perhaps more importantly, we understand the potential of the endocannabinoid system. While cannabis represents humanity’s first major interaction and experience with manipulating the endocannabinoid system, it will certainly not be the last. The more we understand about the endocannabinoid system, the more we realize how essential this system is to physical and neurological health. Enter nutmeg. Nutmeg is a spice ground from seeds of the Myristica family of trees indigenous to Indonesia. Like cannabis, nutmeg spice has been used throughout human history for various spiritual, medicinal, and flavoring purposes. Unfortunately, also like cannabis, very little is understood about nutmeg. For instance, while we’ve observed mixed psychedelic effects from excessive nutmeg…

Is Cannabis Addictive?

One of the early concerns that dominated the medical cannabis discussion was over both the addictive potential and long-term effects of cannabis. For decades, it has generally been understood by the medical community that cannabis is not physically addictive but can be psychologically addictive. To differentiate, individuals addicted to alcohol cannot suddenly end consumption without risk of death or serious health consequences, because their bodies have learned to literally need alcohol. In contrast, even a frequent cannabis consumer can end consumption immediately without serious health risk. However, this transition might be severely uncomfortable due to the psychological dependence of cannabis use. Some anti-cannabis advocates and researchers alike have pushed for the notion that this dependence is life-long. Researchers from Geneva, Switzerland recently pressed one step forward to directly answer this question by observing changes in brain chemistry during and after chronic cannabis use. To back up, what is addiction and what causes addiction? As researchers note, “the addictive effects of virtually all drugs…are thought to be mediated through activation of mesolimbic dopamine projections to the nucleus accumbens.” Essentially, a neurotransmitter, dopamine, is activated to a greater degree than normal, causing an increased interaction with the part of the brain that deals with decision making, risk, and reward. Dopamine is responsible for a multitude of signaling tasks, but perhaps the most known and most important job is signaling reward. When a user consumes a drug, dopamine is released in the brain, essentially rewarding the user for consuming the drug and teaching…

Emerging Neuroprotective Agents from Cannabinoids

Every component of the body is inherently related. When one organ fails or declines in health, another organ will follow. Liver failure, for instance, poses a dire health risk on it’s own. However, beyond the immediate, life-threatening aspects of toxins not being filtered out of the blood, damage to the brain is another physiological consequence. Toxins cause free radicals to build up, which leads to cell stress and eventual neuron death. This cellular damage translates into loss of memory, general confusion, and cognitive damage, which poses a serious impairment to quality of life. Unfortunately, liver issues cannot always be immediately solved, if they can be solved at all. In the meantime, this condition, called Hepatic Encephalopathy, should at least be minimized or ideally entirely prevented, to ensure patients mental health. Scientists have been searching for neuroprotective agents, or drugs that might enable cells to avoid damage caused by buildup of free radicals. Cannabidiol (CBD) is a known neuroprotector, meaning that the application of CBD decreases the amount of cell damage and death brought on by toxins. Researchers do not currently understand exactly how these neuroprotective effects are achieved. However, we do know that the normal cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2, are not involved. When receptor antagonists are applied, and those receptors are shut off, neuroprotective effects are still observed. Case closed, right? Why not use CBD as a neuroprotective medicine for serious health situations such as Hepatic Encephalopathy? This may indeed be one of the best options in present day,…

Sourcing CBD

Have you ever wondered where concentrated CBD comes from? In the United States, industrial hemp is now permitted under special circumstances, thanks to a 2014 U.S. Farm Bill which approves special grow programs. States like California and Colorado offer a legal pathway to growing smaller batches of medical cannabis for CBD production. CBD can also be legally produced synthetically without the plant at all with appropriate DEA approval. All three of these pathways represent avenues for legal CBD production in the United States. Assuming that the goal is to produce 100% pure CBD, these methods are all equivalent; the source has no impact. However, when CBD is initially extracted from a whole plant, terpenes and cannabinoids are extracted alongside and remain in the product. The greater the quality of the source plant, the greater and richer these terpenes and cannabinoids are, whereas synthetic CBD contains no additional molecules. Due to current cannabinoid research indicating the likelihood of synergistic effects of cannabinoids, we at Cornerstone feel that whole plant, high quality cannabis preparations of CBD are likely more effective medical solutions than pure or synthetic CBD. If it were purely medicinal cannabis advocates arguing for the effectiveness of whole-plant derived CBD preparations, we might simply dismiss this notion as financial bias. Of course medical cannabis dispensaries have incentive to advocate for medical cannabis-based products! Of course we’d rather see the CBD market in the hands of local providers vs. industrial giants. That is our bias. However, ultimately the conversation about the…

Real Life Cannabinoid Treatment for Multiple Sclerosis

As a blog concerned with new developments in cannabinoid science, we tend to do a lot of writing about future treatments, or new scientific developments that may eventually lead to treatments. Part of the issue is that large-scale, clinical testing of new cannabinoid based medicine is still years away in a lot of areas, particularly in cancer-related fields. That’s why reading a good, new large-scale study is always exhilarating. In this case, a recent study from the University of Bari in Italy took a look at a large scale, real-world application of a THC/CBD oral spray in treating adults with treatment-resistant Multiple Sclerosis (MS). In the past, we’ve written about treating MS models via lab mice with THC and CBD, and also the theory behind that treatment. So being able to finally see how things play out in real life with real patients is particularly rewarding for us and is yet another confirmation of the efficacy of cannabis based treatments. To review, MS is an auto-immune disease in which the body’s immune system is confused into turning against the body and attacking cells. In particular, MS is caused by the immune system stripping neurons of their outer protective linings, which normally prevent “signals” from being crossed or lost in the brain, both for conscious and unconscious tasks. This stripping eventually results in loss of physical mobility and function and can prevent patients from fulfilling active, healthy lives. Spasticity, which affects about 2/3rds of patients, is particularly problematic. Unfortunately, at this…

Retinal Health and Cannabis- “Seeing” the Difference

Glaucoma was one of the first applications identified for medical cannabis treatment and remains one of the most common medical reasons for prescription. Why? In the 1970’s initial slew of cannabis-centric research, the Journal of the American Medical Association published a finding that individuals who smoked cannabis experienced lower intra-ocular (inner-eye) pressure. This was one of the first significant physiological findings regarding the effect of smoking cannabis. However, more importantly, it seemed to be an answer to glaucoma, a disease in which excess fluid builds up in the eye, causing higher pressure and cell damage. As a result, the study was duplicated often, and the results upheld the initial conclusion that cannabis could be an effective solution. Unfortunately, cannabis research waned in popularity. Once cannabis was culturally cast in the same category as other recreational drugs, the idea that it would ever be prescribed legally for glaucoma lost traction. Fortunately, years later, as we experience a renaissance in both cannabis prescription and cannabis research, a new interest has arisen in the way the endocannabinoid system might be manipulated to treat retinal disease. The endocannabinoid system, as some readers may be familiar with, is the system of cannabinoid receptors, natural cannabinoids that bind to them, and all the enzymes facilitating that process that are found in humans and most mammals. Recently we’ve learned that cannabinoid receptors are more complex than we imagined. Aside from cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2, vanilloid receptors (an entirely different chemical system), and orphan GPR-55 receptors are…